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How Christian Marriage Diminishes A Woman's Sense Of Identity...


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Hi everyone.  A quick recap on my background:  I grew up a generic Christian until college, then became "radicalized" into a fundamentalist, highly-Bible-revering, committed Christian from age 22 - 36.  At age 36, I reached the conclusion that I no longer believed in inerrancy, that I was agnostic regarding God's existence, and that I was skeptical of the virgin birth and literal resurrection of Jesus.

 

Since age 25, I've been married (I'm a man, married to a woman).  My wife was a key player in me becoming more conservative and fundamentalist.  She remains a Bible-believing Christian, although, practically, she has moved into a more mainstream evangelicalism and is, surprisingly, quite liberal nowadays about many things - not spanking, using creative consequences with the kids, votes democratic (!), rarely reads Bible, okay if we miss church sometimes, etc.  I actually think in her heart she is a lot like me - a secular humanist - but unable to extricate herself from Christianity...    She voted for Hillary over Donald because fighting racial injustice was more important that having a [stated] pro-life president.  That's a huge step away from fundamentalism...

 

Because of the very conservative church we went to when we dated (and were married in), it was hammered into my brain countless times that my wife, essentially, existed for my benefit.  Like Eve, she was created by God to be MY helper, to come alongside ME in MY pursuits, to dress nicely FOR MY EYES TO ENJOY, to be available for MY SEXUAL PLEASURE, etc.  Of course, this "plan of God" sounded great to me...   Now in all fairness to myself, I have always been sweet to my wife - I was never violent, never verbally abusive...  I served her - got her cold drinks when she was tired, gave her massages, etc.  I truly cared about her.  BUT, I also believed that her role was to assist me in my God-given tasks...  

 

There was a lot that was oppressive about our marriage for her - and all of it made worse by the fact that I believed I was operating with God's approval, even his mandate.  So I didn't think twice about micromanaging finances - so we would have more to save and give away.  (I wasn't generally hypocritical about this - I required both of us to be frugal in order to give; but forcing her to live under my own borderline masochistic extreme frugality embittered her.  I also felt justified in weighing in on her clothing choices and hairstyle.  After all (in my thinking), God created her for me...

 

I'm sorry this is all so discouraging and offensive.  It makes me sad as I reflect back on this period.  Please know that my thoughts are SO different now.  I have so much anger and regret about how our marriage established and how much it has harmed my wife...

At the same time, I am able to forgive myself because I think I was honestly following out what I thought the Bible said...  and n my mind, the Bible was unquestionably true...

 

Over time, I saw an incredibly sad thing happen - my wife's sense of self grew smaller and fainter.  Who she was started to diminish - like a fire burning out.

 

We had an amazing and tender conversation about this last night.  I am so glad for it.  I was able to tell her emphatically that I want her to do whatever she needs to do to cultivate her sense of self again.  To prioritize caring for herself - seeing the chiropractor, getting massages, getting her hair done, etc., finding activities to participate in, people to see, etc.

 

I guess this is part confession, part rant, and part question.

 

The question:  Do you all think that Christian marriage - when biblical principles are followed accurately/sincerely and not just capitalized on/exploited by selfish men) INHERENTLY leads to the destruction (or at least the suppression / diminishing) of a woman's sense of identity?  A loss of who she IS?   And isn't this a tragedy???

 

 

 

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I think the only answer is - it depends on the people involved, and the church and how they interpret the Bible. On the one hand, Christianity can be interpreted in a very controlling way. I met a woman at work back in the 80s who was very nice and bubbly, only to be shut down by a husband who saw her talking to me as an adulterous threat (he showed up at her work because she mentioned talking to me). They were part of a pentecostal church that enforced tithing with a written record and compared it with pay stubs.  I heard of another bubbly woman who was continually shut down by a husband who would just give her a cold look and she would kowtow not wanting to upset him (which is EXACTLY the way the god of the Bible wants things, being a narcissist). Some ladies really don't know how to escape, and being continually told to submit in order to please God keeps them from trying to escape.

 

Some parts of the church WANT laws and rules to live by. They want the dire threats of burning alive as a reminder of their god's holiness and their own unworthiness. They revel in the degradation that their smug god pours out on them. It's almost a fetish, like a slave wanting his dominatrix to whip him. Some people really do enjoy that and preach it on the streets. Other parts of the church world revel in "grace" and focus on continually weeping tears of joy and being forgiven again and again, but still proclaiming their own horrible nature, which is another form of the same rule-based way.

 

On the other hand, I have known marriages that were just fine regardless of all the rules and regulations that a church wanted to dump on people (and yet they kept going out of a sense of obedience). I saw the strength and ability of my wife as assets instead of a "Jezebel spirit" as many tight-assed churches call them. She was willing to kowtow because she'd been trained to "die to self" from an early age. But through years of encouragement she is much more able to stand against bullshit now and figure out what she wants to do in life. It takes time to heal a broken spirit that is used to bowing out of fear and obedience. We left church around 12 years ago so stopped getting any teachings on it, and got away from the whole church culture that was toxic to normal human living.

 

So it takes time to shift one's sense of reality, and the embrace the freedom that is naturally there outside of the church.

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The question:  Do you all think that Christian marriage - when biblical principles are followed accurately/sincerely and not just capitalized on/exploited by selfish men) INHERENTLY leads to the destruction (or at least the suppression / diminishing) of a woman's sense of identity?  A loss of who she IS?   And isn't this a tragedy???

 

Ask 10 people what accurately/sincerely following biblical principles means and you will get 10 different answers. If it means one person is the other person's servant then there could be a problem if/when the servant gets tired of that role. And yes, I can see where if someone's thoughts and actions are discounted or ignored as a matter of everyday life they might stop sharing their thoughts and doing actions and/or withdraw into themselves.

 

This Christian marriage paradigm is outdated and does not belong in modern society. There is no logical basis for it in the 21st century. Most Christian marriages I've seen give lip service only to this submissive wife role. "Yes yes, honey you're in charge of me. Now be a big strong man and take out the garbage, ok?"

 

Conservative Christians will tell ya, "Marriage is between one man and one woman" ..... see, no Jesus or bible mentioned in that statement. lol Meme twisting is fun. smile.png

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midniterider: That lip-service thing sounds a bit like my parents. My mom can be servile and gushing, then yell at my dad about something or other. I've always found this submissiveness thing quite sickening, and condescending to both women and men: Adult women need leadership somehow because god said, and men need women fawning all over them.

 

I think following the biblical marriage model is damaging to women, though of course there are many different versions of it. I recall from when I was younger hating that I'm female and swearing I would never marry because I didn't want to be in servitude to some man. No matter how the church people tried to spin it as being about love and husbands sacrificing themselves for wives, I would read the Ephesians passage and other parts of the Bible that mentioned women, and feel betrayed: that god had said I was just as valuable as anyone, while setting me up to be a helpmeet following orders.

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Insightful - depends on how it is interpreted, but yes. The really sad thing is that if the woman is fully indoctrinated, the man doesn't even have to work that hard to "keep her in line". She will try hard, as I did, to be submissive according to her understanding of the scriptures. My husband was a very mild leader and I was frequently frustrated with his disinterest in being the "head" of the family! He has been such a good secular husband that I have never felt any need to push against him or rebel in any way. He has even lamented my lack of ambition at times! All I can say to my lack of ambition is that I have never been ambitious and am an inherently content person. Give me food, shelter, and love, and I'm happy!

 

As an aside, I wonder if the rampant porn use, infidelity, and divorce in fundamentalist circles is a result of this suppression of their women. When you suppress every ounce of individuality from a woman, you end up with a vanilla, boring Stepford Wife with no personality. The men get bored and look elsewhere for "forbidden fruit".

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As an aside, I wonder if the rampant porn use, infidelity, and divorce in fundamentalist circles is a result of this suppression of their women. When you suppress every ounce of individuality from a woman, you end up with a vanilla, boring Stepford Wife with no personality. The men get bored and look elsewhere for "forbidden fruit".

 

 

 

 

It could be that the wife is just refusing to put out for no good reason.

Losing one's self-respect is detrimental to libido.

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I do remember that some of the married guys I knew when I attended the COC talked a big game about their wives' submissive role. But in actuality, from the spousal interactions that I saw, anyway, these fellows were really fairly pussy-whipped. Seemed afraid of their wives! It amused me greatly...

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As an aside, I wonder if the rampant porn use, infidelity, and divorce in fundamentalist circles is a result of this suppression of their women. When you suppress every ounce of individuality from a woman, you end up with a vanilla, boring Stepford Wife with no personality. The men get bored and look elsewhere for "forbidden fruit".

 

 

 

It could be that the wife is just refusing to put out for no good reason.

Losing one's self-respect is detrimental to libido.

 

 

 

If you don't want a guy to cheat, don't have a continual headache.  Dat simple. 

 

 

My partner has self-image and self-respect issues from her uber-Catholic upbringing.

 

These combine to give her a low libido.

 

And I love her and would never cheat on her.

 

Dat simple.

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As an aside, I wonder if the rampant porn use, infidelity, and divorce in fundamentalist circles is a result of this suppression of their women. When you suppress every ounce of individuality from a woman, you end up with a vanilla, boring Stepford Wife with no personality. The men get bored and look elsewhere for "forbidden fruit".

 

 

 

It could be that the wife is just refusing to put out for no good reason.

Losing one's self-respect is detrimental to libido.

 

If you don't want a guy to cheat, don't have a continual headache. Dat simple.

My partner has self-image and self-respect issues from her uber-Catholic upbringing.

 

These combine to give her a low libido.

 

And I love her and would never cheat on her.

 

Dat simple.

That's beautiful, BAA. You are a good man, and you demonstrate how marriage is supposed to be about compassion and understanding, not demanding you get your own way or else, as some on here seem to believe it is.
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If a partner/spouse doesn't feel satisfied, that person needs to talk to the other about both their desires and needs, and be upfront about it if the lack of sex is a deal-breaker. Going behind someone's back is juvenile.

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That doesn't address the issue of stabbing someone in the back. If men need sex, they can masturbate. Need or not, anyone who can't act like an adult and talk about problems instead of trying to sneak around them shouldn't be in a relationship.

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Well, I can't argue with personal experience.

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The question:  Do you all think that Christian marriage - when biblical principles are followed accurately/sincerely and not just capitalized on/exploited by selfish men) INHERENTLY leads to the destruction (or at least the suppression / diminishing) of a woman's sense of identity?  A loss of who she IS?   And isn't this a tragedy???

 

 

(I'm late to the party...)

 

Yes, I think that's part of god's plan also: that she will become less, and you will become greater. Extremely sad. I see this scenario play out in my fundy family members' lives and it's heartbreaking...not just for the wife, but for female children who think this is all they deserve in life. 

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Yes - I think in general if a church proclaims itself as "Bible believing" the woman will suffer for it, and probably a lot.

 

I've been married to the same beautiful woman for 20 years. We were high school sweethearts. I love her as much today as I did when I was a young teenager but we went through some pretty hard times as Bible thumping Calvinists. I did not respect her as an equal partner and I used to talk and think just like Burnedout does. I used to hate feminism and I used to get so angry when I would hear anything about women's rights that I would react out of guilt and rage just like Burnedout. Of course, I thought I was justified and felt like the typical "persecuted" white man when all it really was, was me getting a dose of my own medicine. Due to my own religious and cultural privilege, that I was born into, every time someone threatened it, I would lose my shit. This happens regularly, especially to white men in North America. We feel persecuted only because we're so used to being at the top of the heap. Equality feels like a step down for us because it is!

 

The funny part is - my wife actually enjoyed being a mother and housewife for the many years that we were Christian. Except for fairly crappy sex (because it was all about me), she loved taking care of and raising our kids. I, on the other hand, did NOT like having the sole responsibility of making the household money and going to a job I hated every fucking day for 2 decades. I got a vasectomy without my wife's consent after two kids, because I knew I couldn't handle having more. She's very grateful for this now, but it caused huge marital issues at first!

 

I remember thinking and acting as if her needs and her life really didn't matter. My happiness and my desires were the bottom line, even though we "loved" each other. I'm embarrassed and ashamed of this now.

 

We were so close that we deconverted together about 4 years ago. Almost immediately I started to realize how much of an asshole I'd been and started treating her with the respect that she (and everyone else) clearly deserved. Our marriage basically started over again. I thought we'd been in love before, but now I realize what true love looks like! My wife immediately started attending university with my full support and is almost done her degree. She is kicking ASS at life now and to see her confidence and independence warms my heart every day anew. We will BOTH be earning an income soon and we are looking forward to a new life of financial and cognitive freedom where we are fully equal. I've been doing most of the housework, cooking and taking care of our teenage kids for the past four years, while she's been studying her butt off. It feels so much better to be a team than to play roles that naturally put one of us in charge of the other.

 

Our sex life TOOK OFF too. I mean - WOW. :)No more arbitrary limits. We can watch porn together - and we do. We can talk about anything. We can try anything that both of us agree on. I want to tell my many Christian friends and family members how great my new sex life is, but they'd be shocked and wouldn't understand so I just gloat silently. :) I watched porn and masturbated for two decades, feeling ashamed and lying to my wife about it when all I had to do was treat her as an equal and talk to her and I would have been shocked at what turned her on! Nothing feels better than giving your wife of 20+ years a good orgasm or two! Some nights I don't even orgasm and she does - and nothing makes me happier.

 

What folks like Burnedout don't understand is that true love is counter-intuitive. By giving up our social, cultural and religiously granted "man power", we men get the biggest benefit of an equal partnership. We get to experience the true love of a woman who's uninhibited and free. The love of someone who doesn't have to love us, but chooses us freely.

 

I speak from experience when I say that nothing compares to that.

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Wow, Burny.  Thanks so much.  I think I'm on the same path as you but a few steps behind:  realizing and regretting the ways I treated her and taking steps toward rebuilding our marriage on a new foundation.

 

It's great to hear about your journey.

 

A big difference for us  (that makes it VERY hard and frustrating) is that my wife still believes the Bible is "God's Word."  So, I absolutely cannot convince her that the main reason I treated her as of secondary importance was because that is what I thought was BIBLICAL.  So for her, the poor ways I treated her must only be 100% my fault and not the fault of God/Bible/Christianity.  Christianity gets off scott-free for everything that sucked in our relationship and I alone am the bastard who is held responsible.

 

There IS healing for us as I acknowledge the unhealthy patterns and seek to do what is right in our marriage.  But I can never seem to come out from under that shadow of BLAME.  Even if she forgives me.  And I hate this.

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Wow, Burny.  Thanks so much.  I think I'm on the same path as you but a few steps behind:  realizing and regretting the ways I treated her and taking steps toward rebuilding our marriage on a new foundation.

 

It's great to hear about your journey.

 

A big difference for us  (that makes it VERY hard and frustrating) is that my wife still believes the Bible is "God's Word."  So, I absolutely cannot convince her that the main reason I treated her as of secondary importance was because that is what I thought was BIBLICAL.  So for her, the poor ways I treated her must only be 100% my fault and not the fault of God/Bible/Christianity.  Christianity gets off scott-free for everything that sucked in our relationship and I alone am the bastard who is held responsible.

 

There IS healing for us as I acknowledge the unhealthy patterns and seek to do what is right in our marriage.  But I can never seem to come out from under that shadow of BLAME.  Even if she forgives me.  And I hate this.

 

I have no idea how hard it must be when one of you is still a believer. Hopefully one day your wife will come around. In the meantime, don't dwell too much on the past. Unfortunately, what's done is done. You can't change that. You can only show your wife from this day onward that you as an unbeliever are a nicer person and less of an asshole than you were as a believer.

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"What's done is done. You can't change that. You can only show your wife from this day onward that you as an unbeliever are a nicer person than you were as a believer." This!

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What is the purpose of marriage? 

 

Bit of a mile long question isn't it? Marriage could have many different purposes to many people.

 

I've never been married, but for me if I did, its purpose would be to show commitment and willingness to build a life with the woman I married. If a couple are willing to do that then there are various non relationship benefits (economic, legal etc) Can you commit to someone just as much without marriage? Sure you can. You just might miss out on a few benefits.

 

People say marriage is an institution of God. Its not, people have been marrying (In what we understand the social contract of marriage to be) since the ancient Egyptians at least... possibly even the Sumerians and before them.

 

Here's hoping I find said woman, if not I'm still happy and fairly content with life.

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What is the purpose of marriage? 

 

Evolution has no purpose.  

So if it's accepted that we evolved and are still evolving, then a great deal of what it means to be human will be evolving as well.  Most likely this will include what we call marriage.  As with language, behavior, societal standards and cultural values - very little humans do is set in stone or black and white, fixed, permanent and unchanging.  

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Once we abandon the notion that God instituted marriage, we have marriage as a human institution. It's been set up differently in different cultures.

 

Conservative Catholics insist that by the light of unaided reason, we can figure out that natural law endows marriage with the necessary goal of procreating and rearing children. They insist that the qualities of the relationship between husband and wife are also important, but they do not regard the husband-wife bond in itself as a sufficient condition of a valid marriage. Without the goal of procreating and raising children, the "matter" of the couple's marriage is defective, on this view.

 

Clearly, not even the Catholic Church follows this view consistently, since they will marry people who cannot procreate and raise children. They futz around with the usual sort of spin to save the doctrine while trying to allow for reality. It leads to a severely weakened Natural Law argument when they grant that a man and woman who cannot procreate and raise children can still be married.

 

As a man married to a man, with our marriage occurring in our later years, I do not view it as responsible to try to adopt children or raise children from a surrogate mother w/ my semen or whatever. When that kid is entering college, I'll be in my 80s? How is that responsible? But there are important legal and medical issues, as well as the benefits of domestic stability, that justify extending marriage to childless couples. And if a society does that, it is not rational to exclude same-sex couples from a status that is granted to a childless man and woman. (I leave out the question of same sex couples who have children.)

 

But whether or not there are children, the way the two people treat each other is crucial to human flourishing and to the flourishing of the marriage.

 

What if one partner refuses to have sex with the other, over a long period, in effect with no end point? I guess I'd say the relationship has degenerated and that it's understandable if at least one of the two wants to end it. That's different from a situation where medical/physical disability rules out sex. I don't know if there's one answer for all couples in such a situation, and I don't know whether the answer reached by a particular couple is an interest of society.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platonic_love

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexless_marriage

 

A marriage may also be sexless if one or both partners are asexual or if the couple mutually agrees to abstain from sex due to religious principles, avoidance of sexually transmitted diseases, a platonic basis for the relationship or the goal of avoiding conception. Other reasons for sexless marriages are resentment in the relationship due to an imbalance of duties, responsibilities (moral, spiritual and religious); incompatible ideal, spiritual, moral and behavioral aspects.

 

My uncle Arthur and his wife Eileen enjoyed a very happy (but unconsummated) platonic marriage for 55 years, BO.

 

Contained in marriage there can be a sexual element - but it is not an absolute requirement.

 

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I agree with the statement that a Christian Marriage (especially amongst conservative Christians) in general does diminish a woman's sense of identity.  I am a smart capable person (I am a woman) and graduated form the University with a BS in Chemistry, Summa Cum Laude.  I was offered a free ride to get my doctorate but was made to feel horribly guilty for not staying home, taking care of my husband and having kids.  I caved and did just that.  I felt like it was "God's will" that I serve my husband.  I was his helper and it was pretty clear that if I decided to have kids it was an abomination to put them in childcare.

 

I struggle now that I have deconverted and am able to be more true to myself.  I regret my decision and feel like I have put myself in a precarious position.  When you aren't contributing financially to the family you lose your power and voice.  I feel like I am a very smart, capable person that under normal circumstances would have been VERY successful in the work force.  Instead I clean, cook (I do make fantastic gourmet meals :)!), volunteer and run fundraisers at my kid's schools, and take care of my kids (this endeavor never leaves one feel successful or very satisfied....my 14 is major handful).  It has been a struggle in the past year to find my voice and insist that I be treated as an equal.  Equality is harder to establish when for 17 years it wasn't that way (I am 50% responsible for this myself as I believed that I had to submit even if I didn't think it was a good idea or very fair) and partly because I am a homemaker and that just doesn't garner a whole lot of respect.  It is weird how religion persuades us to do things that go against our good judgement.  Like the good quote from Mark Twain says "Faith is believing what you know just ain't so."

 

I am trying hard not to be bitter but instead learn from my mistakes and make the best of things.  My husband and I are both growing in this area and have 20 years of marriage under our belts.  I am happier now that I don't feel obligated to put up with the constraints of religion.  I think I am parenting better as well although I feel confused and frustrated in this department because I am raising my kids so different from the way I was raised ( I feel insecure and wonder if I am screwing all of this up!!). I'd love to hear how people on this forum have navigated raising kids after being raised under a very conservative Christian household (and having raised my own kids for the first 11 years as a sold out Christian and then deconverted).  Life is beautifully messy :)!!

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Hi Salemite (not too far from me in Vancouver),

You might also post your question as a new post in Ex-Christian Life to get more replies.

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